It is not enough to control the lobster harvests through permits and a timed season. It is not enough to control fish catches through weight and size. Monofilament line, bottles, cans, lead weights, lures, batteries, car tires, cast nets and other debris deteriorates and enters the food chain and winds up in our seafood meals. It poisons and mutates our seafood and handicaps the lives of aquatic creatures. All this occurs through inconsiderate littering and a lazy public attitude. It is our belief the public would change their habits if they were aware of the impact of their actions.
I have dived all over the world and have videotaped what I have seen. Humans leave footprints wherever they go… footprints of debris and trash. I have formed this initiative to heighten public awareness for the need to clean our inlets, reefs, wrecks, rivers, beaches, shoreline and jetties. It is easy to spot and clean litter landside. Our underwater side is less noticed. One might suspect that is why people along rivers and jetties or out boating think nothing of tossing over glass bottles, empty ice bags, wasted fishing line, or six pack rings. It sinks out of sight… so it must be gone.
At the Fort Pierce Inlet taken July 2008, I lead the first recreational divers allowed into those waters since 1974 and witnessed miles and miles of fishing line, hundreds of casting nets, bottles and cans and massive amounts of trash everywhere.
Thirty-five divers dove until they had to stop… not because we ran out of debris, not because we ran out of slack tide and current, not because we ran out of air…. No, we had to stop diving because we ran out of collection bags for the trash we were finding.
Our immediate goals are to:
1. Educate the general public of the need to recycle and pack out all materials they bring in. Our water is not a trash can or disposal site;
2. Educate the fishing public of the need to pack out fishing line and all plastics, bottles and glass;
3. Involve community-based groups, the news media and public officials in a program to educate and to gain support of the public;
4. Increase awareness of the value of scuba diving to undo some of the harm from pollution and littering;
5. Increase the training of divers and increase the involvement of new divers in this cleanup process; and
6. Increase the sites and volume of materials collected until the amounts of materials collected diminish as a result of the success of both cleanup and awareness.
Our long-term goals are to:
1. Through the establishment of a 501(c)3 Not-for-Profit Corporation we seek to write grant proposals for funding for larger, more global projects. Debris and trash enter into our creeks and streams and then follow our waterways to our oceans. Our situation is not unique. It is global. We will build our model program, through which we hope to gain success and teach others, thereby spreading the word.
2. Establish a line of communication with the fishing industry to look for different and less toxic fishing line material without offending or disrupting this necessary and vital industry.
3. Involve the fishing and boating industries in the funding of this project, as divers offer the only current method to reduce the negative impact of the materials they use and dispose of in our waterways.
4. Work with marine patrol officials and waterway professionals to locate derelict and abandoned vessels, determine ownership, contact those legal owners and engage them financially to assist in the cleanup.
MCII hopes to spread the necessity of this project through websites, blogs, and networking to rescue our waterways and critters from our own best intentions.
We thank all the dive shops, divers, deck hands and boat owners that volunteer in this most important project. Without their efforts, our progress would be far less. We acknowledge the understanding and patience of the boating public for giving way the few hours each year that our divers are in the water cleaning up.